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Rock in a hard place
Mr. Brosha, a professional photographer with a recently published piece in Above & Beyond on the Yellowknife music scene, knows the trek. “The hardcore music fans here are often forced to travel south to places like Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver to get their music fixes,” he says. “I myself have traveled south in the past three years to see Coldplay and U2 in Vancouver, and the Dixie Chicks in Calgary.”
By the way, when we say “travel south,” we’re not talking New York to Philly, or Philly to D.C. This is the Canadian Arctic: It takes 20 hours, 26 minutes to drive from Yellowknife to Calgary, according to Mapquest — 27 hours, 20 minutes from Yellowknife to Vancouver.
Is it any wonder even his fellow countrymen bypass Mr. Brosha’s home?
“The vast majority of Canadian acts tend to ignore the [Canadian] North, as it’s not the moneymaker of the South, so to see a huge American act not be blinded by the monetary aspects, and to offer their music at a reasonable price to thousands of music fans went over so well up here,” he says. “I think the White Stripes — through this act alone — have made lifelong, appreciative fans.”
Mr. Burridge, a designer and photographer who recently moved to Yellowknife from Ottawa, agrees.
“Many who bought tickets had never heard of the band by name, but bought tickets because of the relative rarity of the event and the promise of a good show,” he says. “I never thought Ottawa was a hotbed for touring talent — most acts would go to Montreal or Toronto — but Yellowknife has nothing beyond local tribute bands and the odd original act.”
A Stripes fan with high expectations for the band, Mr. Burridge had some quibbles with their show in Yellowknife. The locals were having none of it.
“The sound was kind of scattered and buzzy, probably because the band did not have the luxury of using much of their own equipment or touring gear,” he reports. “Certainly, I thought it was a fantastic gesture on the part of the band, but some people refused to hear that I had any reservations.”
Before moving to Montreal in May, Mr. Foley ran a Web site devoted to the Yellowknife music scene, which, he insists, is thriving.
“The real lasting benefit to the White Stripes show would be an increased exposure for Yellowknife artists,” he says. The Stripes earned even more fans in each city by choosing local artists — including aboriginals — to open the shows.
The Stripes have also played free surprise shows throughout the tour. In Whitehorse, they played a free show in a public park and wandered around town during the day.
“For somewhere like Inuvik, I think it means a lot that the White Stripes really took the time to meet members of the community and to learn from the elders,” says Mr. Foley. The last major northern concert was a 1995 Molson promotion in Tuktoyaktuk featuring Metallica and Hole. The beer company “didn’t let the community actually take part,” he says. “Instead, they flew in people from all over Canada as part of a contest. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well.”
Mr. Hoshkiw reviewed the show for the Whitehouse Star: “ ’Is it OK if we play longer than we usually do?’ Jack White asked the beyond-capacity crowd at Monday night’s concert in Whitehorse. ‘We don’t know when we’re coming back here.’ ”
But perhaps more big bands will find their way up there through the snow and ice. Kristy Moskalyk, my sister, lives in Grande Prairie, Alberta, an even smaller town even farther north than the one in which I grew up.
“In recent years with the boom in the oil industry there have been unbelievable acts coming up north,” she reports. Bigger acts like the Black Eyed Peas, Papa Roach and Three Days Grace have played there in just the past year.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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